Everyone knows that food choices impact cholesterol and body weight. But most people are unaware of the real power of foods. For instance, did you know that some readily available foods can lower cholesterol substantially–30, 40, points or more? Did you know that there are special foods that can accelerate weight loss, others that ensure weight gain? Do you know which popular foods cause major distortions of triglycerides and lipoproteins?
Healthy food choices are the cornerstone of your plaque-control program. That's because:
* Food choices affect lipoproteins. The right foods create healthy lipoprotein patterns. Poor choices trigger a domino effect of undesirable lipoproteins that grow plaque.
* Food choices affect insulin. Some foods trigger a flood of insulin that ignites abnormal lipoproteins, arterial injury, as well as fatigue and overeating. Other poor food choices completely bypass insulin and thereby fail to trigger satiety signals, causing your body to believe it hasn't received food when it has.
* Food choices powerfully influence weight. This is especially important if excess weight is sufficient to trigger the metabolic syndrome, the increasingly common combination of characteristics that fans the flames of plaque growth.
* Food choices vary in flavonoids. Abundant flavonoids pack an array of health benefits from arterial health to cancer prevention. Some foods are flavonoid powerhouses, others are completely devoid of these healthy factors.
* Food choices vary in vitamin and mineral content. The right foods, for instance, can substantially reduce undesirable levels of the toxic amino acid homocysteine if they contain abundant choline or trimethylglycine.
In the Track Your Plaque program, we use food and nutrition in a focused way to help achieve specific goals. Some people call this "food as medicine" (also see Functional Recipes in the Track Your Plaque Library) though that makes it sound like an unpalatable teaspoon of castor oil. You'll see that enjoying food is a necessary ingredient in the Track Your Plaque approach. Yes, we will help you understand how to use food and nutrition to your advantage, but you'll do better to recognize food as a wonderful social and family event, a process of rediscovery that leads to increased enjoyment of food.
The American Diet–A recipe for disaster
It's no secret that Americans indulge in far too many processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated and hydrogenated fats, and snacks. The result is a national explosion of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Your grocery store is filled with unhealthy foods. The most unhealthy are promoted heavily with eye-catching, colorful, expensive marketing. Breakfast cereals are advertised daily on TV, magazines, and even have museums devoted to them. You won't see that happen with green peppers, spinach, and wheat germ.
As consumers, we are flooded with clever marketing for processed foods. And let's face it: processed foods are tasty. Walk through the aisles of your grocery store and the temptation can be overwhelming. How to resist this onslaught of temptation and marketing? Recognize this phenomenon for what it is. Just as you wouldn't buy a car from a car salesman just because he says his car is the best bargain on the lot, you need to see food marketing as a tool for profit. Foods roll off the production lines not for health (though some healthy aspect is often used as a promotional tool–low-fat, low-carb, low-cholesterol), but to increase profit. Foods are processed, packaged and modified to increase profit margins, enhance marketability, ensure resale. You've simply got to come to terms with this unhealthy downside of the market economy gone awry.
Many people struggle with habit. You're accustomed to having gravy with chicken and that's the way it's been since Mom made it for you as a kid. In fact, just thinking about it gives you warm and fuzzy memories of Mom and family. Unfortunately, Mom had good intentions but the nutritional wisdom of 1960 is sadly outdated. Would you have your thyroid gland removed for heart disease? (Shockingly, that was a popular treatment 40 years ago for angina that left you woefully ill and dead within a few years.) The European and post-World War II traditions that became incorporated into American eating habits is part of a bygone era. A deluge of new understanding and insights into nutrition have shown us just how far wrong these habits were. You're going to need some new ideas. That's among the purposes of Track Your Plaque.
Heart health and weight loss–Are they the same thing?
Don't confuse diets for weight loss with diets for reduction of heart disease risk. Losing weight does indeed reduce risk for heart disease. But a diet that provides a rational, comprehensive approach to heart disease prevention should be much more than that.
The Atkins Low-Carb High-Fat Diet: People often ask if they should begin an Atkins' diet for their heart. The Atkins' diet is an effective tool for weight loss. It is not a healthy means to reduce heart disease risk (beyond benefits of weight loss). High saturated fat and lack of fiber and phytonutrients heighten risk of cancer, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and bladder infections if followed for more than a few months. We can only recommend this program for brief periods (several weeks) if your weight loss efforts really need a kick-start. It does work, after all, and some people do find adherence easier, as the high-fat content is satisfying and inhibits hunger.
The Ornish Low-Fat Diet: How about ultra low-fat diets like the Ornish program? Some people claim low-fat diets "reverse" heart disease. In our experience, some people do well and reduce LDL cholesterol and lose weight; most enjoy little or none of these benefits. This larger second group doesn't lose weight and, in fact, drop HDL cholesterol, increase triglycerides, and increase small LDL. We've witnessed many people inch closer and closer to the metabolic syndrome the longer they follow this program. Clearly, one size does not fit all. We do not recommend this program or similar programs.
The South Beach Diet: This is an excellent diet and one that precisely follows all of the Track Your Plaque Nutrition Principles. If you like a specific plan to follow that articulates what you should eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then the South Beach program may be for you. High-fiber, high mono-unsaturated fat, low saturated fat, and low glycemic index characterize this very rational program.
The 6 Track Your Plaque Diet and Nutrition Principles
The Track Your Plaque Nutrition Principles apply diet effectively in light of lipoprotein analysis and its effects on plaque scoring. Our six principles don't specify how many grams of this or that to eat per day, but allow you to apply basic but important principles in your grocery shopping, food preparation, and dining. We find this approach less restrictive than specifying what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Monday, Tuesday, etc. It allows you to evolve your own particular style but maintain a nutritional approach that provides maximal plaque control.
Our six principles are (click each principle to learn more):
Principle #1: Choose the Right Fats
Principle #2: Foods Should Be Rich in Fiber
Principle #3: Foods Should be Unprocessed
Principle #4: Choose Foods with Low Glycemic Index
Principle #5: Create New Habits
Principle #6: Food Should Be Enjoyed